Thursday, 08 June 2017 14:55

Can history be true if not based on written records?

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Most African countries under the Sahara did not develop writing and had no written documents of their past activities.

Yet, as human beings they had activities. It just happened that those activities were not written down.

So, can we ascertain what transpired in preliterate societies or is all we can say about them mere conjectures?

Archeologists can date certain artifacts and from them infer the nature of a peoples life styles but that is not the same thing as having a peoples past behaviors written down on paper or on other materials.

Specifically, Igbos did not have writing. Today, some Igbos write books on what they claim to be their past history. They write stuff about what supposedly took place five hundred years ago, a thousand years ago and even two thousand or more years ago.  They write about them as if, in fact, they gleaned the information from written records.

At first glance one is inclined to dismiss what these folks write as fiction, as make belief stuff that has no basis in reality. Perhaps, they come up with made up stories about their people, stories that make their past glorious. But how do we prove that those stories are true?

How do we prove that some Jews left Israel or Egypt a few thousand years ago and wandered all the way to where Igbos are now living?   Is that even possible or are we engaged in fairy tales, mythology?

A chap, Fidelis Ekeimo, wrote the history of his town, Umuohiagu, a town where no one knew how to read or write until about a hundred years ago when Christian missionaries established an elementary school in his village. Yet, he wrote as if what he, in fact, wrote is true. The man traced his people to several places where they supposedly had lived before coming to settle where they currently are.

At some point in the past, he told us that they lived at Edo, at Ife (Yoruba), at Northern Nigeria, at Sudan and then proceeded to trace their origin to Egypt and Israel.

In as much as he has a need to trace his people to elsewhere other than where they currently live, you ask: why stop at Israel? According to the Bible, Jews supposedly came from Mesopotamia (village of Ur near present Bagdad) and before that from the Caucasus and only God knows where else before that.

Then you look a bit deeply and there was no written records from which he drew.  Apparently, he drew from what is in his head (I am assuming what other people told him what is in his head or that he made up those stories by his self).

People have a need to understand their past but in the absence of written records can they really have certainty that what they are talking about as their past is true?

This question is probably the primary issue with African history. How do we know that anything we say about black Africa, anything more than a few hundred years ago, is true?

From West Africans encounter with the Portuguese in the fifteenth century we can pretty much accept what is written as possibly true. But how about before the fifteenth century?

I am not talking about the history of Ghana, Mali and Songhai and Bornu because those were written down, albeit in Arabic but they were written down hence probably true.

Could someone please help me to understand how to see the spate of supposed history written by modern Africans about their past?

Is the stuff that Igbos write about Nri kingdom that took place two thousand years ago true?  How does one verify this story? Or is one supposed to accept this stuff as true just because Igbo nationalists wrote them down and call them their history?

I am tempted to dismiss these so-called histories and or see them as creative writing, as fiction. Is history mere fiction written by a people to suit their desires for a glorious past?

A people can actually delude themselves and become paranoid if they write make belief stories and come to believe that those false stories are true and act on them.

What is a psychotic but a person who holds false beliefs about reality and behaves in accordance with his false beliefs?

I am sorry to say it but the fact is that I see many deluded Africans who take their fictional histories as true. They live in thatched huts but tell us that their ancestors built the Pyramids of Egypt. If your ancestors built those stone structures in Egypt how come you did not even build a simple brick house in your sub-Saharan homes? How did you lose the skill set necessary to build pyramids and now live in thatched huts? How did Africans go from the high culture needed to operate ancient Egypt to being naked persons running around the rain forests of Africa?

DISCUSSION

I understand that most people's stories are a mixture of fictions and facts. European and Asian histories are replete with mythologies.

Most of us can tell the difference between the history and fiction contained in Homer's Iliad and Odyssey and in Virgil's Aeneid; we know that those books attempted to conjoin history and mythology and therefore are not deceived. We know that there is such a thing as objective history despite the mythological aspects of it.

American history, for example, makes America's founding fathers super human in their achievements but that been said they did, in fact, exist and did some of the things they were supposed to have done. We can distinguish real history from made up history; one hopes that we can also distinguish between fiction and facts in African history.

Finally I can be accused of having a need to denigrate Igbo, African and black history, to present them in a negative light. If that is the case you ask: why do I have the need to denigrate my people's efforts to seem important, what do I have against their pursuit of existential and social importance?

Human beings feel inadequate and everywhere struggle to seem adequate. What are human beings but creatures that feel inferior and struggle to seem superior? If so why not leave black folks to do what all other human beings do: struggle to seem to have value, worth and importance in the absence of those?  What is human civilization but the struggle to seem to have worth in the face of flesh's worthlessness? We are born and must die hence are not special so we struggle to seem special; what is wrong with that as long as it does not become pathological?

Listen, if it makes you feel fine to see me as having a need to put Africans down please by all means go ahead and do so. I do not see myself in that light. I see myself as a man interested in the truth and nothing but the truth.

CONCLUSION

We need to have some certainty in African history! This means separating fiction from facts; to me, there is too much fiction in African history.

If you have answers to my questions please write them down and publish them, and don't forget to send a copy of your writing to me.  Below is my email address to send it to. Thanks.

Ozodi Thomas Osuji

June 8, 2017

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

(907) 310-8176

www.centerformindscience.org

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Ozodi Osuji Ph.D

Ozodi Thomas Osuji is from Imo State, Nigeria. He obtained his PhD from UCLA. He taught at a couple of Universities and decided to go back to school and study psychology. Thereafter, he worked in the mental health field and was the Executive Director of two mental health agencies. He subsequently left the mental health environment with the goal of being less influenced by others perspectives, so as to be able to think for himself and synthesize Western, Asian and African perspectives on phenomena. Dr Osuji’s goal is to provide us with a unique perspective, one that is not strictly Western or African but a synthesis of both. Dr Osuji teaches, writes and consults on leadership, management, politics, psychology and religions. Dr Osuji is married and has three children; he lives at Anchorage, Alaska, USA.

He can be reached at: ozodiosuji@gmail.com (907) 310-8176